Bitch Planet: After a Brief Hiatus

Since the last post, several holidays happened, I spent time in three different states, I started school again and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack roughly nine million times. You can blame any of those for the brief hiatus. I wanted to talk about a book that was out in trade since the last one wasn’t, so I was planning on coming back with Lazarus. Then I read the newest issue of Bitch Planet and realized that I really needed to talk about that instead. 

Bitch Planet (Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Artist: Valentine De Landro)

Anyone who says comics isn’t a serious medium hasn’t picked up this book. DeConnick, De Landro and their team of rotating guest artists are creating a story about the experience of being a woman. Yes, it is primarily set on a planet that is entirely a women’s prison and exudes dystopian futurism but the underlying reality of the story is one that women live out daily. The women who inhabit the irreverently nick-named Bitch Planet are guilty of some form of non-compliance, anything from violent self-defense to having an opinion to not conforming to the patriarchy’s beauty standard. De Landro’s art is gritty and unflinching. The panels are filled with every kind of diversity: race, size, sexuality. With Penny Rolle, he is able to communicate how it is for a large woman to exist in a world where her very size is a crime. She fills the panels, unable to be comfortable in her society even as she embraces  her body as a profoundly empowering piece of her identity. 

The single issues contain eloquent essays written on the many facets of feminism. While these are not available in the trade editions DeConnick has hinted that the essays may be collected at some point. Possibly the best part of the single issues are the back covers peddling weight loss parasites, missed connections and (real) non-compliant foam middle fingers all under the heading Hey Kids, Patriarchy!

The first trade was released in October. Single issues are pretty difficult to track down at this point but all are available digitally.

Monstress: A day late

So, I am aiming for Friday posts; it gives me a chance to read this week's releases and marinate on them but isn't too far from the all important Wednesday. However, this week the Pacific NW decided to rain BUCKETS and partially flood my local comic shop of choice. Luckily (unluckily?), this isn't the first time this has happened so my favored purveyor of comics has a pretty efficient way of dealing with a leaky ceiling. 

There were many contenders for the topic of this post. The excellent mini-series by Vaughan and Skroce, We Stand On Guard wrapped up this week. However, in light of last week's post I decided to talk about something that wouldn't make it seem like I only read stuff by one guy. Even if that guy is Vaughan.  Let's plan to talk about this one when the trade/hardcover drops. This clears the way for me to talk about the project I am most excited about from the last month: Monstress.

Monstress (Writer: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda)

There's a fox on the cover! Seriously, do I need to say more? Probably not, but I will because this project deserves it. The book is a hybrid of steampunk and Kaiju (Japanese monster movies, think Godzilla) but doesn't really address either genre. Liu's self-stated goal with this book is one of subversion. So much of the media that is given unto us is inhabited by males. Movies, books, TV, the protagonists are male. The default characters are male. Women are relegated to plot devices or set pieces. No one who inhabits these fictions seems to find it odd that the gender ratio is so skewed.  Liu seeks to invert this paradigm. Women are the powerful and the subjugated. They are good, cruel and indifferent. Men exist but on the periphery. And like so much of entertainment, no one in the world discusses it. The characters do not casually explain the matriarchy or gender imbalance; Liu simply asks her reader to step into the world and experience the story. She has given some eloquent interviews on these topics here and here.

Let's talk about identity! Our protagonist Maika is a young women haunted by the horrors of her past and the ghosts of her present. Takeda's art is heartbreakingly dynamic; as Maika stares at a monstrous ghost manifested in front of her she glances down to see the ghost image of her own lost arm. I cannot convey this to you in words, you have to pick up this book. Ultimately, this story is a young woman exploring what identity means. Are we defined by our culture and race? By a disability? By war and trauma? A person can have all these pieces and still feel as if she doesn't know herself or the monster within. Maika's journey looks to be one of self-discovery as much as adventure. 

And then there is Kippa. 

Takeda has perfectly captured the innocence of childhood in a little fox girl. (Look at that face!) Kippa’s perspective is a powerful way to frame and experience a world of violent racism and hatred. Simultaneously, her utter adorableness and naïveté temper the world of horrors she inhabits. 

I could write about this book until the nine of you that read the last post gave up and went home. Instead let's sum up: adventure,  adorable fox girl, stuff blows up and did I mention the talking cat? The first issue is more than SIXTY pages! One issue: sixty-six pages. None of them are wasted. The second issue was released this week; the first has gone for a second printing. I will post a reminder for the trade waiters when that is published. For now: to your local comic shop! Or, as always, online.

You'd Better Read This, Andy Stone

There are three people who are apparently interested enough in my opinions and lazy enough that they don't want to do their own research that encouraged me to start writing this. One of them is in the name of this post. (Seriously, Andy, I'm doing this for you. If you don't read it, I am going to be pissed.) Here we will talk about comics. Maybe I'll just tell you what I'm reading. Maybe we'll get analytic and philosophical and shit. Hopefully, it will be fun. My tastes are my own, some may agree, many won't. That's good, it's a big medium with lots to choose from.

Ok, here we go. 

Saga (Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Artist: Fiona Staples)

I know, it's a pretty popular title, not something I dug out of obscurity. But, it does hold a special place for me. It's the title that brought me back to actively reading comics a few years ago. It seems as fitting a place as any to begin this list. Also, if you don't like Saga, you probably won't like much of what I have to say about comics. 

A lot has been said about this book so I won't rehash. Suffice to say it's a complicated, sometimes smutty, sometimes profane, always touching look at family and relationships. If by some miracle you found this post before hearing about this book; go, now to your nearest comic or book store and buy it. Or, you know, read it digitally.